On the red Conservative manifesto

We make no apology for focusing all of our analytical energies on the General Election manifesto of just one party. No need to worry about political bias, given the number of previous Labour and LibDem policies in it.

There’s been lots of talk about Theresa May’s march to the centre ground. Believe it. This is a rare and genuine moment of political change in the UK, as May explicitly rejects the economic liberalism of Thatcher, Blair and Cameron. Those on the government affairs circuit might want to think about a change of political air. The centre of political gravity has shifted sharply away from free market-oriented influencers and towards Red Tory and Blue Labour groups; think Resolution Foundation and Bright Blue, not Reform and Policy Exchange.

The manifesto call for more government intervention might have caused tears at the Adam Smith Institute, but regulatory bodies and their suppliers will be pleased. It’s implied that Ofcom, ICO, Ofgem, Pensions Regulator and Competition Commission amongst others will see enhanced powers. There will be more scrutiny of foreign takeovers, and foreign ownership in critical national infrastructure including telecoms, defence and energy. UK firms operating in sensitive areas – such as BAE and the UK’s small cyber firms – may benefit.  

A formal mandate for hard Brexit is sought, but little detail beyond what we already knew. Suppliers supporting HM Government outside the UK will notice some strengthening of overseas operations in preparation, with nine new regional overseas trade posts, and secured funding for BBC World Service and the British Council. Defra will continue to channel farm subsidies for the time being; “a new agri-environment system” will be devised and introduced post-Brexit – just one of the major IT projects down the track.

Work for HMRC also looks likely. Support for Matthew Taylor’s Modern Employment Review suggests measures on self-employment and disguised employment, to increase the tax take and strengthen worker benefit entitlements. But there are few firm commitments; we’ll have to wait and see if IR35 will be extended to the private sector, enabling public sector bodies to hang on to their contractors. More frequent business rates revaluation, and possible self-assessment for valuations, would mean significant new development work for HMRC and the Valuation Office Agency. Means-testing of the winter fuel allowance makes work for DWP, too.

(Originally published on Kable)

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